Meat-Packing Plant Loses Workers to Immigration Raid

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At one meat-packing plant in Worthington, Minn., as much as one-eighth of the work force was reportedly arrested in federal immigration raids. The arrests were part of six raids across the country. From Minnesota Public Radio, Mark Steil reports.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Lawyers for workers obtained in yesterday's immigration raid say U.S. citizens were among those picked up. Today, many Swift workers were scared and confused about their future and that of their friends and relatives.

Minnesota Public Radio's Mark Steil reports.

MARK STEIL: Marco Ramos was at the Swift plant in Worthington, Minnesota, yesterday when U.S. Immigration and Enforcement agents arrived. He says he was lucky he had his immigration papers in his wallet to prove he was here legally. He watched as many co-workers were hustled away.

Mr. MARCO RAMOS: (Through translator) If you were white, you weren't even asked for papers, but if you were brown looking, then immediately you were asked for papers.

STEIL: While Ramos was not held, his wife, an undocumented resident, was. She was detained when she came to work to bring him his lunch. She was held for some 20 hours before being released to care for the couple's children. Ramos's attorney and translator, Susanna DeLeon, says she talked to dozens of workers from the plant and believes U.S. citizens were detained in the raids. DeLeon wants the Department of Homeland Security to set up a grievance procedure to address civil rights issues related to the immigration action.

Worthington churches were an immediate source of assistance for people affected by the raid. Worthington minister Hector Androti(ph) says many people were too scared to go home, and numerous children spent the night with him at his church because both of their parents were in custody.

Mr. HECTOR ANDROTI: Now they're separated because of the dad being taken by the immigration or mom being taken by immigration, so it's a very sad situation right now in the Hispanic community.

STEIL: At the Worthington plant, about 10 percent of the employees were arrested, some 230 workers. There's a palpable sense of fear among Hispanics here. Marco Ramos says many wonder if immigration officials will visit their homes next.

Mr. RAMOS: (Through translator) I cried much. Much I cried. All day long I cried. I cried for myself. I cried for my wife. I cried for the families and for the community. I cried. I cry all day.

STEIL: Ramos says now that his wife is back, his next concern is his job. While Swift officials say the plant will stay open, Ramos wonders how they'll be able to replace the arrested workers. He worries that the plant that sustained so many in this small community may be forced to close.

For NPR News, I'm Mark Steil in Worthington, Minnesota.

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